May 012013

COAL Commentary Logo SmallApril 30, 2013 

A boycott of the Menards that is opening at 92nd and Western has begun. The position of those participating in the boycott is that we should not shop at a business that disrespects and ignores the Black Community. COAL supports that sentiment and, therefore, understands that this specific action is believed needed. Public statements of our dissatisfaction with businesses and institutions that do not support the Black community and further various forms of discrimination, are essential.

Our thoughts on this? We need to first remind our members and greater community of interest, not to lose sight of the fact that our efforts to date have resulted in some wins at 92nd and Western, the birthplace of the Gardner Initiative and spark that focused a spotlight on the disparities experienced by black folk in the construction industry.  The community needs to recognize that some of their efforts were successful even though Menards was disrespectful of Mr. Gardner and, by extension, the community.

There were concurrent projects at 92nd and Western: Menard’s, Meijer’s, Michael’s/Ross, and one project still pending, Outlot Buildings.  With the exception of Menard’s, the community successfully pushed those construction projects to hire more blacks and to use some (not enough) black contractors. Additionally, there is a verbal commitment from the site owner/developer to utilize black contractors on the Outlot Buildings project. The bottom line:  our community bought pressure to bear, in various forms, and got some results. This was a win and a tribute to what our collective efforts can achieve.  Are we satisfied with only what was achieved at 92ndand Western? No! Are there still issues there? Yes!  But our efforts are bearing fruit for folks that need jobs and for our businesses and we must continue our push.

Second, and more importantly, let us also not lose sight of the following:

  • That  approximately 56 schools will close as a part of the CPS School Actions, resulting in @1,000 jobs being lost (400 janitors, maintenance, security, cafeteria and other non-teaching positions, around 100 administrators and the remaining being teaching positions), all in neighborhoods of color. At a time when the economy remains sluggish, the loss of this many jobs in our community is devastating.  And we must continue to advocate against these closings and urge the strengthening of our public schools and the reinvestment in our neighborhoods.Shouldn’t there be a plan to ‘recall’ these teaching and non-teaching positions as openings in other areas are created. Shouldn’t these individuals move to the front of the line for other CPS jobs?

    What about the small businesses in the areas surrounding these schools – this must result in a big financial hit on these neighborhoods of color. How do we assess and address the impacted loss of business in these areas?

  • 56 schools targeted for closing with the roughly 40 schools already shuttered equates to almost 100 capital assets being shut down in our neighborhoods. Who will benefit from re-tooling / renovating / redeveloping these assets? Will it be to the benefit of our community?The Mayor has stated that $320million in renovations will be spent on buildings as a part of the School Closings. Will our Community get its fair share of those dollars?
  • The CTA Red Line Project begins in May (see update included in this issue), where we are focused on ensuring that the CTA meets or exceeds minority targets for both the Rail and Station projects and that the CTA hire a significant number of individuals from our community for open positions resulting from the Red Line shutdown.
  • That we prepare our community for the additional projects on the CTA’s docket that equate to several hundred million dollars of potential business for black contractors and black professionals and jobs for our community. Remember, our goal is to increase black employment in the construction industry as well as in the service and professional sector.
  • That we need to be aware of, plan and prepare for the infrastructure projects that are coming to the State of Illinois representing several billion dollars of potential business for black contractors and other black businesses, and jobs for our community.
  • That we need to be aware of, plan and prepare for major developments such as:
    •     City Colleges development;
    •     Ward development projects city-wide, across all 50 wards;
    •     Westside Hospital District development;
    •    Airport Development;
    •    McCormick Place Development;
    •    Navy Pier Development;
    •    Museum Expansion;
    •    Park District projects;
    •    University development throughout the metropolitan area;
    •    Private Sector Development projects citywide.
  • The need to change policies and practices at the City and County which preclude those entities even meeting the minority goals that they’ve established. Our goal should be that unemployment and employment should be the same as that of whites.
  • The need to work on legislation at the State level to ensure that our businesses have a fair shot at opportunities to start and grow their business and to do business with the State – these are our tax dollars at work.
  • The need to research, analyze and address the hiring practices of companies across the Chicagoland area, from entry-level to the Board room. Are black folk getting a fair shot and if not, what steps should we take to redress this. Black executives and Black board members should increase in all of the business and corporate operations in Chicago. Let’s not forget that we need more black physicians and nurses on hospital staffs; more opportunity for black architects, planners and project managers, black accountants and black attorneys in major law firms.
  • The need to put the infrastructure in place to support our black businesses and to facilitate their success.

As stated above, COAL empathizes with those focused on Menard’s in Evergreen Park, and feel that Menards missed an opportunity to establish a relationship with a target group of customers and consumers who spend significant dollars in big-box stores.

That being said, COAL suggests that the Community recognize the Menards slight, but more importantly, not take our eyes off of what could be a devastating ‘slight’ to our community throughout the Chicagoland area, if we do not use our collective focus, our collective energy, and our collective efforts to follow the big monies and ensure that our Community receives and is prepared for these major projects and programs already being planned or implemented. The protest should move when and where needed to make known our expectations.

Finally, COAL  will continue to work with and search out organizations and individuals that are willing to put in the time and effort it will take to systemically change the systems and processes that inhibit and block black folk from being hired and retained, and to systemically change the systems and processes that inhibit and prohibit business going to our black businesses and the growth of the black business class.

Let’s get to work….

Click here for a copy of COAL News May Issue 1.0

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